Thunder Bay

First Nations that were home to residential schools included in new class action

Residential school survivors who were left out of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement now have another chance to receive compensation from the federal government.

9 residential schools in northwestern Ontario are part of the recently certified class action suit

Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, is one of nine residential schools in northwestern Ontario that is part of the national class action suit for day scholars. (CBC)

Residential school survivors who were left out of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement now have another chance to push for compensation from the federal government.

A class action lawsuit for students who attended an Indian residential school during the day, but went home at night, was certified by a federal court in June. All so-called 'day scholars', and their children, are included in the case unless they opt out by November 30.

The day scholars experienced the same loss of language and culture and were subjected to the same curriculum, punishments and treatment as other students, said their lawyer Karenna Williams.

"But because these students went home at night, they were actually ineligible for any compensation for the way they had been treated," Williams said.

'Common experience'

Day scholars were eligible for the independent assessment process if they suffered physical or sexual abuse at residential school, she said, but they were ineligible for the common experience payment. 

That's the compensation that was awarded to survivors who could prove they lived at a residential school. They received $10,000 for the first school year of residence and an additional $3,000 for each subsequent school year.

Nine residential schools in northwestern Ontario are mentioned in the day scholar class action. They are: 

  1. Cecilia Jeffrey (Kenora, Shoal Lake)
  2. Fort Frances (St. Margaret's)
  3. McIntosh (Kenora)
  4. Pelican Lake (Pelican Falls)
  5. Poplar Hill
  6. St. Mary's (Kenora, St. Anthony's)
  7. St. Joseph's/Fort William
  8. Stirland Lake High School (Wahbon Bay Academy) from September 1, 1971 to June 30, 1991
  9. Cristal Lake High School (September 1, 1976 to June 30, 1986)

First Nations, such as Poplar Hill, that were home to the schools could also be eligible for compensation if the class action is successful.

Unlike students, First Nations must opt-in to be part of the case. They have until February 29, 2016 to do so.

Williams said ideally, the case will be settled out of court.

"I really believe that it's time the government sit down with the people who were left out [of the common experience payments], have these conversations and essentially right the wrongs," she said.